Shonky Alcohol Pregnancy Posters Taken Down –  Shane Varcoe

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

“There is no safe use of alcohol at all.” The Lancet

(For another opinion of The Lancet quote, click on

What happens when powerful lobby groups defend their patch even if it means exploitation and destruction to the fabric of our society?

For one thing, they get found out!

Thousands of posters warning pregnant women about the dangers of alcohol have been removed from the walls of hospitals and GP clinics around the country.

This was the result of a campaign funded almost entirely by alcohol companies, who recently withdrew 2400 of their pregnancy warning posters.

Doctors and health groups had told the group the message was utterly wrong.

Starting with the headline the poster was subtly misleading. It stated ‘It’s safest not to drink while pregnant,’ when in fact it’s not safe at all to drink while pregnant.

Then to top that off, the small print at the bottom of the poster quoted another mis-truth. It read, ‘It’s not known if alcohol is safe to drink while pregnant.’

There lies the crux of the story behind the posters demise and the fact that both the AMA and Fairfax confirmed it. The truth is;

‘It IS known alcohol is NOT safe to drink while pregnant!’

The words in small print that ‘It’s not known if alcohol is safe to drink while pregnant,’ were considered to be misleading and inaccurate,  because in reality it is now known it’s very dangerous to drink while pregnant.

The science was clear, alcohol has had devastating effects on unborn babies and Delgarno Institute is arguably one of Australia’s strongest advocates and supporters in the fight against drug and alcohol abuse.

Shane Varcoe, Executive Director of Dalgarno Institute, confirmed alcohol can have devastating effects on unborn babies.

The AMA did discover it and Fairfax did call it out and good on them.

“The alcohol lobby and its industry are heavily tied to legislative outcomes and they’re throwing money at political parties, trying to get them to play down the evidence,” Shane commented, saying the populist view of alcohol makes it difficult to get a dissenting voice in the marketplace.

But the evidence is compelling. Especially when the drivers behind it include medicos, world leading medical journalists, including the Lancet, who’ve now come out with an absolute clear statement.

The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day

When you have these prestigious, incredibly profound and broad bodies, after decades of research, confirm the dangers of alcohol consumption by pregnant women or otherwise, the misleading pro-drinking posters were destined for the dustbin.

To be caught out with the false promotion was an important thing according to Shane Varcoe.

The posters were going to end up in thousands and thousands of medical clinics. That was the next roll-out.

“The average mum and dad would be in there. Teenagers would see them on the wall ‘You shouldn’t drink when pregnant but we don’t really know that’s true. And it’s legal after all.’”

The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day that takes place annually on the 9th day of the 9th month and even zeros in on the 9th hour, was the magnet that drew Shane Varcoe to explain why this day can do with some publicity.

“Certainly FASD, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, has seriously been studied for a number of decades now.”

“Not everybody who drinks alcohol has an FASD outcome.”

“Completely preventable but sadly incurable,” Shane stressed.

“I think there’s nearly 428 different conditions now linked to it. It becomes a congenital defect of the foetus after the alcohol traverses the placenta wall. So the child developing in the mother’s womb is subject to whatever the mother ingests.”

Shane said other drugs as well but alcohol particularly can have a negative impact on the baby.

Not everybody who drinks alcohol has an FASD outcome after the alarm sounded around ten years ago.

This is why FASD day was set up – on the 9th hour of the 9th minute on the 9th day of the 9th month every year – to say those first 9 months of your child’s life are absolutely imperative.

“What you drink, what you eat is important to the child’s development and Isabella’s list which is part of the Dalgarno Institute is dedicated to that whole area of the child, basically from conception to adulthood.”

But it’s those 428 conditions that are the major concern.

Important that dad does not drink either

“You can everything from minor behavioural issues in a child. It might appear to be ADHD but it might not be that at all – to severe manifestations where there’s actually facial distortions and it’s quite clear there’s something significantly different about the child.”

But because it’s a congenital defect it’s incurable.

“It’s a very disturbing condition and the highlight it’s been given is good but it needs to grow more and more.”

“Mums and dads, because it’s interesting with the data coming out that if you’re trying to get pregnant and have a baby, it’s just as important that dad does not drink in the process of trying to conceive the child.”

Evidence coming out of Scandinavia has found that if dad’s a solid drinker when trying to conceive, it can impact the development of that child as well.

The science on this is quite distinct and there’s no argument about this condition and its severity.

Shane said it’s the old problem; no one wants to admit they’re a drinker who drinks a lot.

“They might drink one or two glasses. That’s actually a chronic condition, one or two glasses a day is not good for you at all. But they don’t see it for themselves that they have a problem with alcohol.”

‘A bit naughty but OK’

While drinkers are not forthcoming about their habit, what Shane said was important was to sow seeds not of doubt but of warning.

Shane spoke about a couple of women who came forward at a discussion on the issue and who chatted with him about their drinking.

One woman was quite open about her heavy episodic drinking when she was pregnant and her kids seemed to be OK, a bit naughty but OK.

“Again, what was her perception of naughty and what contributes to that? This is a real problem and it’s a growing one,” Shane wants to see more mums and dads talking about their drinking.

“Not in a ‘don’t drink you’re a bad person if you drink,’ kind of way, but ‘Hey guys, do you realise when you’re trying for a baby it’s absolute best practice not to drink at all?’”

“If you want to have a baby, stop drinking, for the next nine months at least.”

If you would like to listen to the full audio interview click play below


Shane W. Varcoe   –  Executive Director of Dalgarno Institute and a Member of the International Task Force on Strategic Drug Policy.

Dalgarno Mission Statement:

“Our endeavour is to assist Australian Governments, Communities, Schools, Sporting Clubs, Churches and Service Clubs to rediscover the proactive and protective options of best practice prevention models in the alcohol and other drug arena. In so doing to present society and the emerging generation in particular, with positive and viable prevention and demand reduction options around alcohol and substance use and abuse.”

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